Buyer Agents, the MLS “book”, and advent of MLS online

One day, not too long ago (1994 or so), real estate listings were published in a “book” that was published on a weekly basis. If you, the prospective buyer, wanted to search the MLS (multiple listing service) for properties for sale, they could only be found in the MLS book and the central location where you could search through this MLS book was at a real estate brokerage office. You would most likely sit down with a real estate agent whose office represented Sellers and not Buyers.


By 2001, in Massachusetts, Buyer Agency was still not a standard practice in residential real estate and most likely, you would not have had a buyer agent to work with you. The advent of online information search from 1994 (Internet 1.0) changed and some would say “liberated/democratized” the control over property listing data, and Buyer Agency seems to have grown alongside this trend.


We take it for granted, in 2011, that our favorite real estate web site(s) provide(s) all of the tools for searching for properties from our web devices. The MLS book gradually disappeared as all information (books, music, video, etc.) migrated online and search engines like Google indexed and made sense of our searches. Real estate search web sites also started to become mainstream over the past ten years. Pioneers such as increased the evolution of Buyer Agency in Massachusetts and many other markets. Some of the most utilized sites today, in my opinion and experience, are,,, (in some markets), (in some markets), and a few others.


The MLS book of real estate property listings disappeared and the listings became 100% searchable. Seller agency that was prevalent in the 1990s has shared space with Buyer agency by 2011. In my opinion, Buyer agency has been a very important shift and positive trend for consumer choice for you, as a prospective Buyer of real estate in Massachusetts (and across the US).


Buyer Agents

My firm (Willard Realty Group), for example, practices “designated agency.” Our agents can act solely on behalf of a Seller, which makes them a Seller’s agent, or our agents can act solely on behalf of a Buyer, which makes them a Buyer agent. The designation of a real estate agent as a “Buyer agent” or a “Seller agent” is determined by your real estate needs.


If your goal is to “buy” real estate, then one of our agents would represent you as a Buyer agent. If your goal is to “sell” your home or property, then one of our agents would create an Exclusive Right to Sell contract and represent you as a Sellers agent.


I have been both a Buyer agent and Seller agent since 2004. Overall, as a real estate agent, it is a professional designation or distinction to be acting on behalf of a Buyer or Seller. The roles are separate and agents work for you based on your goals and needs: Seller or Buyer. One thing you should pay attention to is amount of experience an agent has as a Seller agent vs. Buyer agent. Look for someone who is a professional and who works full time as a real estate agent.


There are many decent and professional real estate agents who I have worked with and a few rotten eggs. Hire an agent you feel comfortable with and who displays professionalism, honesty, integrity, and transparency. I agree that there are other traits that are also important, such as whether the agent you hire is full time or part time. This distinction holds true for most professional service oriented industries. A full time professional is highly focused, better experienced, and knows the state of the current market(s), and practices. You will find that in real estate, the part timers may be competent, but can you take the risk that they will be able to give you full time attention and focus?


Buyer agent vs. Seller agent


Services/Duties Seller Agent Buyer Agent
Set up property showings            X            X
Assist with Financing            X            X
Provide property data            X            X
Explain forms and agreements            X            X
Monitor closing            X            X
Provide property value reports            X
Represent buyers on all MLS listed properties, including bank owned properties, auctions, FSBOs, new construction            X
Advise the buyer even if it means pointing out reasons not to buy            X
Disclose all known data about property history & liens            X
Negotiate in favor of the buyer on price & terms            X
Align offer with buyer’s interest            X
Keep buyer’s financial information and situation confidential, unless given permission to disclose            X







Willard D. Cunningham
Willard Cunningham, Broker/Principal
(617) 921-4758
MA License# 9077116
1953 Massachusetts Ave.
Ste. 400775
Cambridge, MA 02140
MA License: 9011


“Your referrals to me will get the best of many years’ residential real estate experience

– and my heartfelt thanks.”

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